If I had 50 cents for every natural weight-loss
claim out there, well, I’d have so many cents I wouldn’t have to write
Yet another “miracle weight loss” ingredient found in
your kitchen cupboard: Baking soda AKA bicarb. Yep, the same powder that makes
bread or cookies rise – is the latest ingredient to be saddled with weight-loss
Some blogs claim it can help you speed up weight loss
(though, they often don’t go into details regarding how).
In reality, there’s precisely zero science behind using
baking soda for weight loss.
would people think baking soda works for weight loss anyway?
A quick chemistry class refresher: “Baking soda is a
chemical compound called sodium bicarbonate,” explains Dr Rachele Pojednic, an
assistant professor of nutrition at Simmons College.
When you consume baking soda – typically by mixing it
with water and drinking it – it reacts with your stomach acids to form salt,
water and carbon dioxide, says Dr Pojednic. “The most common (medical) use for
sodium bicarbonate has typically been as an antacid,” she says.
Baking soda, with its alkaline profile, can actually
help soothe symptoms like indigestion and nausea, which can be caused by
excess acid in your stomach – and, if your stomach feels better, it might also
“Your stomach is supposed to be at a very low (acidic)
pH, which is what causes the early stages of protein digestion,” says Dr Pojednic.
“If you eat a big meal high in protein (or maybe even high fat), your gastric
cells would likely secrete extra acid to break that food down.”
The acid itself isn’t going to cause distress, but if
there’s too much pressure in your stomach, that acid could squeeze up into your
oesophagus and cause irritation like indigestion or acid reflux.
“If you take an antacid (like baking soda), it will
‘neutralise’ the acid that gets into the oesophagus or the digestive tract and
relieve the irritation of the acid,” she explains.
But here’s the thing: That baking soda might cause even
more bloating in the short term (its byproduct, again, is carbon dioxide – so you’ll burp it out eventually).
So while baking soda might help your stomach feel
better, it definitely won’t help you lose weight. “There would be no
physiologic reason sodium bicarbonate would increase weight loss, except
perhaps to make a person feel more full, decreasing kilojoule intake,” says Dr Pojednic.
Remember: Weight loss only happens when you create a
kilojoule deficit (i.e. you burn more kilojoules than you consume); drinking
baking soda is not going to magically make extra kilojoules disappear – unless
you’re too uncomfortable from drinking baking soda to eat. (Absolutely a bad
Read more: So, water fasting for weight loss is a thing you definitely shouldn’t do
So, is there
anything else baking soda can do?
There is some evidence that baking
soda could influence your performance at the gym.
When athletes consumed sodium bicarbonate 60 minutes
before a lower-body strength-training session, they were able to complete more
reps with less muscle fatigue than participants who consumed a
placebo, according to research published
in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
In another study published in the journal PLOS
ONE, cyclists who ingested sodium bicarbonate 60 minutes before exercise
also showed improved times to exhaustion.
“Sodium bicarbonate may benefit endurance by making the
blood slightly more alkaline (i.e., less acidic),” Dr Pojednic explains. Think
about the lactic acid that builds up when you work out, eventually causing your
muscles to burn and forcing you to stop or slow down. “Having less acid in the
working muscle would actually delay the onset of muscle fatigue,” she says.
To get those benefits, the most effective dose of
baking soda seems to be 0.3g per kilogram of body mass per day, “but that would
be in a very active person who’s training for an event,” says Dr Pojednic – not
the casual gym-goer.
The biggest issue: More often than not, consuming
baking soda would cause abdominal distress, which ultimately impedes your
athletic performance. “If you’re doubled over with stomach pain, you can’t
exactly compete at your best!”
The bottom line: Use
baking soda to make bread and cookies, and stick to proven methods like
consuming a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly when you want to
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com
Image credit: iStock